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May 21 2022 10.29am

A look at Palace’s games for the rest of the season

February 9 2022

Palace

Palace

Crystal Palace's campaign until now has not been without adversity but they cross the halfway point with plenty to show for it, writes Steve Toomey.

It’s approaching a year since Frenchman, Patrick Vieira has been appointed manager – after former England boss, Roy Hodgson’s retirement at the end of a four-year tenure at the club – and he’s already begun to leave his mark.

Hodgson’s style was pretty direct, favouring the counter-attack but Vieira has been instilling a more proactive ethos into his side. There’s much more emphasis on possession and short passing, and on building from the back.

Some remnants of Hodgson’s tactics have endured and proven useful, especially when Palace came away from the Etihad Stadium with a 0-2 upset against a ten-man Man City after a brace of converted chances from the break.

A look at the points

In their opening 22 appearances, the Eagles have earned 24 points from five wins and nine draws placing them in a fiercely competitive pack trying to stay clear of the relegation zone. Just four points separates the six teams from 10th to 15th position and at this point in the season, they’re by no means out of the woods.

In fact, the last five outings have only merited four points for the team – a decisive win against 17th-place Norwich City at home and a draw away at Brighton. Pundits, however, seem undeterred.

It’s popular to wager not only on the eventual winner of the league but also who will be promoted (in lower leagues), and teams that will be relegated to the championship – and at the moment, the bookies are backing the buoyancy of the Eagles.

In fact, if you are to take the bookmakers’ forecast as gospel, Norwich, Watford, Burnley, Newcastle, Everton, Brentford and Leeds are the teams with the strongest odds for relegation, with Crystal Palace and Southampton placed just outside the skirmish with significantly longer odds, so it really is theirs to give away.

Transfer window

The summer transfer window was an important one for Vieira who pretty much began his campaign with a blank canvas on which to build his vision of the club. The January transfers were less dramatic but still saw some movement in both directions through the doors:

January signings:

Killian Phillips

Jean-Philippe Mateta

Luke Plange

January departures:

Jake O'Brien

Jay Rich-Baghuelou

Rob Street

Ollie Webber

The 19-year-old youth player Killian Phillips signed a two-year contract for the club coming from the Irish top flight Drogheda United. Another promising teenage talent in the form of Luke Plange has committed to the club until summer 2025 from Derby but will remain at the Rams on loan until the end of the season.

Plange made his professional debut in December and on his second appearance scored the only goal and assured the win against Blackpool.

Striker Jean-Philippe Mateta began his 18-month loan from German mid-table FSV Mainz 05 in January with the option to make the move permanent until 2026. He quickly proved his worth, scoring two in his first five appearances helping Palace in their decisive victory over Norwich and to advance past Millwall in the third round of the FA Cup.

Defender Jake O’Brien and striker Rob Street leave on loan to Swindon and Newport, respectively. Aussie defender ​​Jay Rich-Baghuelou left for Accrington and goalkeeper Ollie Webber headed to Portsmouth.

Rumours of a loan bid for Manchester United midfield ace Donny van de Beek petered out. It was thought Viera’s relationship with former Arsenal teammate Dennis Bergkamp would help the deal along, since van de Beek is going out with Bergkamp’s daughter, Estelle but it wasn’t to be – instead the Ajax prodigy went on loan to Everton, a move that was considered back in the summer.

Certainly some talent in that part of the field would not go amiss in the current Palace side with Vieira opting for a 4-3-3 formation.

Upcoming fixtures

The Christmas period was testing for Palace with as many as eight players out at any one time due to illness, including the manager himself. It’s all to play for with the remaining 16 games with upcoming fixtures against every single one of the clubs below them in the league.

First up, it’s important for Palace to reassert dominance over the Norwich team that teeter in 17th position, but will they be able to repeat their December performance away from home soil at Carrow Road? Just three days later is another important test in the shape of Brentford, who sit just one point below Palace in the league.

The Eagles will be looking for three points at any ties against clubs in the bottom half of the league and picking up the odd draw against the stronger sides.

Unfortunately, the majority of fixtures against those all-important bottom-half sides for the remainder of the season happen to be away – many of which could turn out to be six-pointers, so the temperature is certainly cranked up towards the culmination of the season.

Indeed, fans seem to be undecided whether being content with staying up and out of danger is something that should be celebrated or if as a club Palace should be looking to push more for top ten finishes and potentially Europa League spots – to follow in the footsteps of Wolves' recent success.

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